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Is Your Content Marketing Naughty or Nice?

He’s a busy guy this time of year.


Well, yes.  But actually I was thinking of someone else.

One guess.

That’s right. The Elf on the Shelf.

Sure, Santa flies around the world on Christmas Eve, but The Elf is flying back and forth to the North Pole each and every day throughout the season.

In between, he’s also working out.

Grilling some burgers and hot dogs.

And catching some rays.

Of course, the Elf’s primary duty is observe children in their home and report on who has been naughty and nice.

We know that naughty doesn’t get you very far with Santa, but is it really all thatbad?

Perhaps another way to look at “naughty” is to see opportunities for improvement.

Here’s an example:

When a 6-year-old asks if she can play with the shaving cream in the bathroom and decides to add some food coloring…

Is that naughty?

Or could that be a learning opportunity?

The same is true with content marketing.

Over the course of the year, I spend time monitoring and analyzing digital communications of nearly one hundred business schools. There are many examples of best practices yet there are also some mistakes that I see time and time again.  I guess you could say they would go on a “naughty” marketing list of sorts, but they are easy to fix – and much easier than cleaning up food coloring all over the bathroom (and the 3-year-old brother).

Here are 5 common mistakes along with suggestions on how to make your content marketing “nicer” for improved lead generation.

1. No images in social media posts

Each day, we are inundated with tons and tons of messaging. That means your prospects are, too. So how do you capture attention and make sure your messages are seen? Be sure to include an image in your social media post. The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text and images will help make your post jump out in a busy feed. It also helps your posts go viral, too.  One study found that Facebook posts with photos saw the most engagement over any other type of post, accounting for a whopping 87% of total interactions. Another found that tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets than tweets without images.

2. Mystery email sender

Think about the number of emails you receive each day.  Well, your prospects are receiving that many as well. How will you boost the likelihood that they will see, open, and click your emails? Begin by looking at the sender and subject line. I’ve seen a number of instances where the sender is a current student, which is great for social proof, but I don’t recognize the name so I assume it is spam and move on. Think of how you can incorporate both personalization and name recognition in both your sender address and subject line.  You can’t optimize open and click rates if prospects are skipping over your emails.

3. Messaging that’s “all about us”

I’ve seen this mistake frequently in social media posts – both organic and sponsored. You have some exciting news to share. Perhaps it’s a new media ranking. A faculty member was just granted an award. Or a student was recently promoted. When developing content, ask “why should the reader care?” and “how does this news help him or her?”  Be sure to create messaging that links the program news to the prospect’s benefit and connects with the prospect’s goals and challenges.

4. No social media sharing buttons

What makes digital marketing so valuable is that your content can easily go viral. Yet it can only do so if you make it easy to go viral. I come across a number of interesting articles and blog posts that I want to share, but can’t find social sharing buttons on the page. I know that I can always the copy the page link and create content to accompany the posts, but all that takes extra clicks (read: time) in a busy day. So, I get frustrated and give up. Make it easy for readers to share your content so you can spread the word further. Don’t forget to auto-populate text to accompany the link. And be sure to use keywords and hashtags for expanded reach.

5. Focusing on “what” rather than “why” and “where”

Content marketing is about bringing prospects closer to your brand and influencing them to take a desired action. Think of your content as answering a question. And then ask yourself what question is it answering? It’s hard to connect on a deeper level with prospects if your website, for example, is describing a program in terms of “what” is offered rather than “why” it’s offered  or “where” it could take them. Prospects are looking for a solution to get them them from point A to point B in their personal and/or professional lives (even if they are not sure on the exact destination).

Also, keep in mind that change – however desired – involves a loss. It’s a loss in current lifestyle, an established way of doing things, perhaps less free time. It also brings up feelings of uncertainty. And human beings prefer certainty to uncertainty.

In order to help prospects overcome that sense of loss and provide reassurance, it’s important to help them understand why it’s important to make this change and where they can go with it.

From there, it can lead to some very nice outcomes.

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